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The media 'should complement state, not become its lap dog'

Planning Minister Trevor Manuel says a more intelligent public discourse that welcomed a strong stance from citizens and reached past the rift between the state and the media is necessary.
(Image: GCIS)
More intelligent public discourse that welcomed a strong stance from citizens and reached past the rift between the state and the media was necessary, Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said at the weekend.

Addressing a meeting of the South African National Editors' Forum on Saturday, Manuel said the public debate in the media had become increasingly polarised, but he believed politicians and journalists should be able to work in a less conflicted way without either party losing integrity.

The state and the media are at odds over the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal, which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) says is necessary as self-regulation is ineffective as a deterrent to inaccurate or unethical reporting.

Madonsela against tribunal

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has spoken out against the tribunal, saying self-regulation is the best legal framework to ensure the constitutional right to self-expression. The media and many civil society organisations have also spoken out against the State Protection of Information Bill, saying the lack of a clause allowing for reporting in the public interest will enable corruption.

The editors' forum has said the passing of the so called "secrecy bill" is a source of division, undermining both national cohesion as well as the image of SA globally.

Manuel said it was "regrettable" that the government and the fourth estate had increasingly been shouting at each other over issues such as the bill. "We need a different quality of discourse. We need to raise the level of interaction ... and it is not a venture that is possible without the press actively applying its mind," Manuel said. "The key question is whether there is the room, the space, the desirability for 'complementarity', which is not the same as you becoming our lapdogs.

'Subversive talk for a minister'

"The idea that we have now been elected to supplant all leadership must be wrong in every aspect of the word," he said.

"This is very subversive talk for a minister, but it is fundamental to what I think we need to do to give quality, depth and dynamism to democracy."

SA could not tolerate a minority that enriched itself at the expense of the majority, he said, but needed a capable state, involved citizens and leadership at all levels of society.

"What our democracy needs to do is to enable the formation of these kinds of compacts.

"If it fails in that, we fail in everything we do," Manuel said.

Source: Business Day via I-Net Bridge


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